Meet Spoken English Conversation Partner Elizabeth

February 28, 2017
28 February 2017,

Describe your past experiences working as an Spoken English Conversation Partner

I began teaching English in college, tutoring Guatemalan farmworkers near my university in ESL. I also spent a semester studying abroad in Lima, Peru and while there volunteered with an NGO in one of the human settlements on the outskirts of the city, mainly tutoring students in English. After college, I moved to Nicaragua to work for a different NGO. A few coworkers and I decided to start teaching English classes after work for anyone connected to the NGO in some way. In addition to these formal classes, during my time in Nicaragua, I served as an informal English teacher and Spoken English conversation partner for many of my friends, neighbors, and coworkers who were looking to learn English.

Tell us more about your education?

I graduated from Cornell University in May 2013 with a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations. My coursework for this major focused on workplace studies, and I took courses in labor economics, labor law, labor history, human resources, and organizational behavior. I also completed a minor in Feminism, Gender, and Sexuality studies, and took several Spanish language and literature classes.

During my time as an undergraduate, I also had the opportunity to study abroad as an exchange student at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru in Lima, Peru through CIEE. During this semester, I took classes on social issues in Peru, Peruvian culture, ecotourism in Peru, and Peruvian modern history. I lived with a Peruvian family and did volunteer work in the human settlements on the outskirts of the city.Spoken English Conversation Partner

How would you describe a typical English lesson at Spoken English Practice?

My typical English lessons are a little bit different depending on the interests and needs of the student I am working with. Generally, however, my lessons are a relaxed and comfortable. I like to begin with a natural conversation on a topic of interest to both of us followed by any corrections on pronunciation, vocabulary, or grammar. I want students to feel comfortable speaking with me, making mistakes, and learning with me!

Tell us a bit about your general teaching philosophy

What I like to do when I think about learning a language is that your mouth and your brain are muscles. You need to exercise them to create muscle memory just like when you go to the gym to exercise and lift weights. I suggest repeating difficult words outloud many many times as well as talking to yourself outloud. I also recommend trying to think in English as a way to practice (either in your head or outloud). It could be even really simple things at first. For example, “I need to take out the trash. It really smells.” These methods help to get your mind used to thinking in another language as well as speaking it. It’s really difficult at first, but keep with it and I promise you it will get easier!

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What are your favorite conversation topics?

I love talking about different cultures (food, clothing, leisure activities, customs, etc.) books, tv shows, and world news. I also love discussing social justice movements and international development topics.

In your experience, what area in English do students need the most help? Grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation or something else? How would you address this in your classes?

In both my personal experience learning a second language and in my experience as a Spoken English Conversation Partner, I have found that students need the most help gaining confidence in their own abilities to speak and otherwise interact with a native speaker. So many students of mine downplay their own abilities or become very nervous in a conversational setting because of lack of practice.

The only way to gain confidence is to practice, practice, and practice! In my classes, I want students to feel comfortable discussing a wide variety of different topics, taking risks with their vocabulary, making mistakes, and learning.

What are your top 3 tips to ESL students around the world?

My top three tips to ESL students are:

  1. Talk to yourself in English. Narrate your day or a story in English. Try to get into the habit of doing this automatically, and not translating from your native language.
  2. Listen to English, at least a little bit every day. Whether this be the news, music, or a movie, it is important to train your ears to hear English, especially native speaker accents!
  3. Practice, practice, practice! Talk to friends, coworkers, tutors, or teachers in English as often as possible.

What A little bit about what you like to do when you are not helping students as a Spoken English Conversation Partner?

When I am not teaching, I love to read (I am always in the middle of at least two books), listen to music, travel, and visit with friends and family.

What kind of students do you prefer?

I enjoy working with students of all different backgrounds who have a positive attitude and want to have interesting conversations!